George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Henry Knox, 18 October 1780

From Brigadier General Henry Knox

Camp, Bergen County, 18 Octo. 1780.


I have received a letter from Lt Colonel David Mason, superintendant of the laboratory at Springfield, dated 30 ulto, enclosing a copy of a resolution of Congress for dismissing him from any further service at that post.1

I take the liberty to inform Your Excellency that Col. Mason has been employed, by my direction, at Springfield for the summer past in making fuzes, a species of laboratory preparation that requires peculiar skill and nicety. In case of a siege the whole success of a bombardment must depend on the accuracy with which they are executed. His practice and perfection in this branch have produced fuzes whose exact operation cannot be surpassed by any made in Europe, and induced me to place my whole reliance on him for this essential article in the arduous operations expected this campaign. I have given him orders for such a number As will require many months to execute with his present assistance. The apparent prospect for their use may be less now than at the time I gave him directions; but it is indispensibly necessary that we should have a large number prepared against the next campaign.

I am entirely persuaded of the laudable motives which actuated the honorable Congress in the dismission of Col. Mason; but I am very sorry they did not know his present usefulness, therefore I pray Your Excellency to write to that respectable body, requesting that he may be retained in service, at least until he shall have finished the affairs on which he is at work.

Under proper regulations I consider his talents and experience in the preparation of all kinds of ordnance stores as highly beneficial to the service. In the present instance he is necessary to the reputation of the corps of artillery in particular, and of the American arms in general.

It is far from my intention to detract from the merit of any. We have a great number of officers who are, and by experience will be, equal to the service in all its parts; but at present they are on other duty, or are deficient in the practice of this particular branch. I have the honor to be with the highest respect Your Excellency’s most obedient servant

H. Knox.

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in GW to Samuel Huntington, 21 Oct., DNA:PCC, item 147.

1Neither the letter nor the enclosure has been identified, but see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 17:670–72.

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